Nothing can stop cricket | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, April 02, 2008 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, April 02, 2008

Nothing can stop cricket

Visually-challenged play the game in their own style


Visually challenged players practice cricket at the Dhanmondi Club ground. Courtesy: NASPD

They play cricket in a new style. They evolved their own rules and play it with a different type of ball.
They are visually challenged cricketers.
Sharif Ahmed, now studying law at Dhaka University, is one of the 30 visually challenged persons who played cricket at National Centre for Special Education (NCSE) at Mirpur-14 in the city.
“From my childhood I used to play cricket with my friends at school. We used to play for fun and follow self-designed rules,” said Sharif.
Sharif started playing cricket from his school days. He play cricket at National Centre for Special Education (NCSE) at Mirpur 14 with 30 other visually impaired playmates.
They played cricket on the floor of the veranda because they had to listen to the sound of the ball's coming. “When we played on the field we wrapped the ball with polythene so that we can hear the sound,” Sharif said.
When the boys were in class four at NCSE, they got 'sound balls' from a Norwegian visitor.
“It filled us with so much enthusiasm. With that ball we could play anywhere we wanted, even on the grass. We did not have to wrap the ball with polythene anymore,” said Sharif.
“There was a narrow street beside our school which we used as a pitch.”
After completing study at NCSE Sharif moved out and got admitted to Comilla Victoria Collegiate School. There he practised cricket with 9 other visually impaired students.
"But we missed the sound ball," he said.
After completing SSC Helen Keller Foundation provided them with two sound balls and Dr Zobaida Hannan, a social worker, took initiative so that they could play at the Comilla stadium and at the local Eidgah Maidan.
“But when I got admitted to Dhaka College, I had to stop regular practice because there were no facilities there,” said Sharif.
“When I first heard about it I was a bit doubtful whether I would be able to play. But after a 7-day course in 2000 I got back my confidence,” said Ashikur Rahman Amit, a graduate from the National University.
Amit used to play inter-school cricket before losing sight in 1995 due to genetic problems.
“We played with the Indian team that took part in the World Cup for visually-impaired cricketers. I hope one day we will also be able to take part in the World Cup,” Amit said.
Hafizur Rahman, another cricketer, said, "Life came to a standstill for me when I started losing my sight five years ago. I never thought that I would be able to play cricket again," said.
Hafiz used to play in under-16 cricket team and coached children at Mirpur Young Cricket Club, but in 2003 he lost his sight for retina pigmentosa.
Sharif and other visually impaired cricketers said lack of proper cricket gears and places is the main obstacle to their regular practice.
“The sound balls are not produced locally. We need to import more sound balls. Secondly, we need an indoor stadium with a silent atmosphere, which is needed for listening to the sound of the ball,” said Sharif.
He said the visually impaired cricketers need a strong organisation and should practise for at least two to three months a year. “But we can't do it because of lack of proper ground," said Sharif.
The National Association of Sports for the Persons with Disability (NASPD) is working to promote cricket for visually-challenged persons. In 2000, NASPD for the first time arranged a seven-day training camp at Sher-e-Bangla Stadium with a special coach from India.
"After the training we arranged a demonstration match which was an eye opener for all. Everyone watching the match became stunned to see them playing,” said Jowaherul Islam Mamun, director, NASPD.
“But in the next seven years we could not arrange a training camp due to financial constraints," he said.
In November 2007, NASPD arranged a three-day cricket camp with the help of ActionAid where 20 visually-challenged persons including 12 students of Dhaka University took part.
"To arrange a camp we need to bring special coaches from India and Pakistan. If we had had coaches here then we would not have to bring them from outside,” said Jowaherul. “We need local coaches.”
He suggested that people with disabilities in the physical education institutes in Bangladesh can be trained for this purpose.
"We need Tk 10 lakh to promote the game. We have approached BCB [Bangladesh Cricket Board] so that they come forward and recognise cricket for people with disabilities," he said.
Mohammad Rafiq, former player of the national team, said silent places and special ringing balls are needed for this game for better outcome.
Khaled Mahmud Sujon, former captain of the national cricket team, said the most important thing is the commitment of the visually-challenged persons while playing cricket.
Asked about the lack of coaches, Brig Gen Shawkat Hossain, director general, Bangladesh Krira Shikkha Protishthan (BKSP), said, “If we are asked by the government specifically, then we can train up special coaches within our existing infrastructure though it can be difficult.”
Ishtiaq Ahmed, vice chairman, media committee, BCB, said that the matter has been discussed and is under consideration.
"We have discussed the matter among the members of BCB. We hope to discuss it in the meeting of our executive committee as soon as possible because it is a matter of their human rights too," he said.
"We will try to help them financially or by providing them with sports gears," he added.
However, the visually-challenged cricketers have not lost hope. “We have a commitment to move ahead and if the Almighty wants we will win the World Cup one day,” said Sharif.

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